OAKLAND -- Doctors, union members, community activists and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf held a rally at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland Tuesday to call on Congress to pass what they describe as a "clean bill" to deal with the fate of immigrants known as "Dreamers."
The noontime rally was held just two days before a possible government shutdown over proposed legislation to renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
President Donald Trump is threatening to end the program, which former President Barack Obama created and gives deportation deferments and work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, unless Congress provides funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"It's a harmful and wasteful policy to put anyone in this situation," said Dr. Celine Sparrow, the chief pediatric resident at Children's Hospital Oakland.
Speakers at the rally, which was organized by the resident physicians from UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland who belong to the Service Employee International Union's Committee of Interns and Residents, said children and families wonder whether they are putting their loved ones at risk simply by seeking medical care, going to school, entering a courtroom or standing in line at the post office.
Javier Lopez Quintana, a University of California at Berkeley political scientist major who's a DACA recipient, said, "There's no reason not to pass a clean Dream Act unless they're being inhumane."
Dr. Michael Mangahas, a Children's Hospital Oakland pediatrician, said, "Trump thinks DACA is a bargaining chip to get his wall."
Schaaf urged members of Congress to "put aside their party affiliations and affiliate with the human race and pass a Dream Act that is clean and creates a path to permanent citizenship."
Dr. Michael Anderson, the president UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, said, "Our country is better than this, we should be the beacon of hope."
Referring to children and young adults who are worried about their futures in the U.S., Anderson said, "No child, no family should be scared."
"We are here, we care for you and we have your back," Anderson told the people at the rally.
Mangahas said, "We will fight with our votes. This is an election year and we're paying attention and we want results."
Dr. Noemi Spinazzi, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Oakland, said the uncertainty over the fate of Dreamers is "a direct threat to our public health" because the chronic stress and anxiety that immigrants and their families and loved ones face is having adverse effects on their long-term physical and mental health.
Spinazzi said Dreamers and their families are experiencing "unprecedented levels of anxiety."
Simultaneous rallies were also planned at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and at other institutions across California.